Out and About / sacramento

A lot to love about Common House

Common House Productions is just shy of its first birthday, but watching their two currently running comedies, you wouldn’t know it.

The Davis-based theater company’s versions of The Importance of Being Earnest and Love’s Labour’s Lost showcase strong casts in a beautiful setting worthy of their talents: the Wyatt Deck on the UC Davis campus. Shows run Friday (Earnest) and Saturday (Love’s Labour’s Lost), July 13, 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21 at 8pm.

Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest centers on the amorous pursuits and identity entanglements of two young men. William Schuller and Kevin Ganger impressively play the male leads, Jack Worthington and Algernon Moncrieff, respectively. Ganger is a convincing Algernon: a cool, confident bachelor disenchanted with marriage and family. He bemoans the idea of married couples flirting in public, referring to its frequency as “perfectly scandalous.” Schuller plays Worthington the head-over-heals, hopeless romantic to a T.

Their personalities contrast, but they have similar secrets: they’ve both created fictional ailing characters to escape their daily obligations. Jack has invented Earnest, his unhealthy brother in the city. Algernon has created Mr. Bunbury, a sick friend in the country. As Algernon announces in Act 1, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” The men and the audience get to see that lies and love also fail to produce simple results.

The female leads – Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew – also juxtapose one another in true farcical form. Gwendolyn, well portrayed by Katerina Robinson, is a coy socialite in love with Jack, but thinks his real name is Earnest. Cody Ganger shines as Cecily Cardew – the young, fresh-faced niece of Jack who is more interested in journaling the details of an imagined engagement to the fictional Earnest than her studies. Steph Hankinson is hilarious as Mrs. Bracknell, Gwendolyn’s mother who makes it her duty to choose the proper suitor for her daughter. Her character is the epitome of the late-Victorian marriage practices Wilde critically pokes fun at. Hankinson and the entire cast make the most of their characters written to enhance the mockery.

Katerina Robinson and Kevin Ganger as Gwendolyn and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Katerina Robinson and Kevin Ganger as Gwendolyn and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Cody Ganger (left) and Steph Hankinson as Cecily Cardew and Lack Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Cody Ganger (left) and Steph Hankinson as Cecily Cardew and Lack Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Cody and Kevin Ganger as Cecily and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest

Cody and Kevin Ganger as Cecily and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest

The Saturday night show, Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of Shakespeare’s first comedies, and features a large cast and a Steampunk theme. There’s royalty, a male pact, courtship, academics, music and subplots: a Spaniard and his page, a wench and a bumbling inmate, a play within a play. The show has a lot of elements and the cast, crew and director pull it off well.

Set in Navarre, the king and three of his lords – Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine – vow to swear off women and study for three years. Played by Skylar Collins, William Schuller, Adam Bolt and Cody Holguin, respectively, the men’s wills are strained by the Princess of France and her three attendants, with whom they quickly fall in love.

The princess and her attendants Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine, test, tease and confuse the men, who fumble in their prideful attempts to woo them. Played by Steph Hankinson, Sarah Gazdowicz, Cody Ganger and Katie Goehring, these women exhibit unique characteristics but present a unified challenge to men, ultimately to teach them that what they want is sincerity.

If Shakespeare in a beautiful setting sounds like your thing, this production of Love’s Labour’s Lost shouldn’t be missed. Anyone who gets a chance to see both shows should be impressed that many actors appear in both productions. Nearly the entire cast of The Importance of Being Earnest is featured in Love’s Labour’s Lost. One of my favorite things about Common House is its mission as a “truly democratic” theater company: “Our aim … is to transform an ordinary or unconventional performance space into a ‘common house’: a sacred space that fosters art and transformation.”

Skylar Collins and Steph Hankinson as the King of Navarre and the Princess of France Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Skylar Collins and Steph Hankinson as the King of Navarre and the Princess of France Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Sarah Gazdowicz as Rosaline and William Schuller as Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost.

Sarah Gazdowicz as Rosaline and William Schuller as Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Hannah Sharafian as Moth and Rob Williamson as Don Adriano De Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Hannah Sharafian as Moth and Rob Williamson as Don Adriano De Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Support their efforts and show one of the newest companies in the Sacramento theater scene some love. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $15 for both shows. Visit commonhouseproductions.com for tickets or more information and check them out on Facebook.

Photos compliments of Kevin Adamski
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